June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

EmX decision does not represent a savings for taxpayers 

2 min read
Charlie Loeb: I predict that 50 years from now Eugene citizens will look at a very crowded River Road and other busy thoroughfares in Eugene and wonder why we didn't implement a BRT system when we had the chance, and when it was so cheap!

by Charlie Loeb

I object to the headline that “River Road EmX opponents saved taxpayers $71 million.

I have not been involved in the discussion about EmX expansion, although I have followed it with interest. While it may be that EmX is not affordable right now, or that more work was needed to build support community support for the project, the implementation of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system like EmX represents a fundamentally more visionary investment than an enhanced bus route.

As a reasonable and relatively affordable facsimile of a metro/subway, a BRT system has the chance to shape land use and development and transportation choices in a way that regular bus service never will.

Eugene’s population is likely to grow dramatically in the coming decades, and with it we will have vastly more personal vehicles. Normal bus service has largely proven incapable of luring people out of their cars if they can afford personal vehicles, while a BRT does offer a viable option for commuters who don’t want to fight congested roads.

I predict that 50 years from now Eugene citizens will look at a very crowded River Road and other busy thoroughfares in Eugene and wonder why we didn’t implement a BRT system when we had the chance, and when it was so cheap!

Ask this question: if we do nothing differently than cities elsewhere, are we not going to end up with the same traffic jams and unpleasant asphalted environment as other places as our population climbs?

Enhanced bus service may serve people who need bus transportation better, but it won’t fundamentally change the trajectory of our development patterns or our transportation system.

The $71 million does not represent savings, it buys a better product. We can choose a less expensive option – and maybe that is the right decision – but it is inaccurate to say that we “saved” money by choosing an inferior solution from the perspective of long-term transportation outcomes in Eugene. 


Charlie Loeb is a member of Eugene’s Active Transportation Committee and the Emerald Valley Electric Vehicle Association.

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